Editor’s note: This column is a version of a speech presented at College of the Mainland’s morning graduation ceremony Saturday.

Good morning and congratulations, graduating students of College of the Mainland. Congratulations on getting this far.

I say “this far,” because this is not the end for you. 

When I first came to College of the Mainland two years ago, I was confronted by unfamiliarity. If you knew me then, you would remember how shy I was. I came as a junior in high school through COM’s Collegiate High School program, and my mind was filled with the warnings of high schoolteachers.

I’m sure you have heard some of the same. They tell you how professors at college will fail you as soon as they look at you and that they never accept anything less than perfect. So, you can imagine my fear when I sat down to my first few classes.

I soon found — to my surprise — that these professors were genuinely interested in the subjects they taught. I discovered that they were willing to work with a struggling student or a curious one. 

I soon got over my fear of the unknown and realized how pointless it was. I found that if I took the opportunity and was bold enough, I was always met with open minds and open office hours.

This college is composed of high school students, such as myself, students directly out of high school and students who are returning to their education. 

We are of many different nationalities and races. I’ve met friends from all different walks of life. 

We are a medley of differences that blend together, like the ducks. If you go out to the lake, you’ll see many different varieties. Different feather patterns and habits, but all living together — like us.

Like our backgrounds, our paths in life will be diverse. You’ve made it this far, but now where will you go? 

I know that wherever you go, you will be faced with choices. Your path will split, and you’ll have to pick a direction. 

For me, one of the biggest choices I’ve made was coming to COM. I am a nontraditional student here. I made a choice to leave high school for the hope that this would be better, but that risk paid off in more ways than I thought possible.

The decision to come to COM has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have confidence and an excitement to go on from here. 

I hope that your years here did the same for you. I hope that you took the opportunities that were given to you and made them worthwhile. 

Whether you did or not, it’s not over. We are entering a new chapter, and a new path is being set before us. I encourage you to take the path that may seem difficult, because it is most rewarding.

Congratulations, graduating Class of 2014. Congratulations on making it this far. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Sveta Roady graduated from College of the Mainland on May 10 with an AA degree. She will graduate from Dickinson High School on June 6.

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